Olympus edges Bonneville 1-0 for 5A girls' soccer state title

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Emma Neff #9 of Olympus is is celebrated by teammates following her game winning header in overtime over Bonneville during their 5A high school girls championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. Bonneville won 1-0 in overtime.

Coming into the season, Olympus High senior Necie Gubler didn’t have any designs on the Titans girls' soccer team making any noise in the 5A state championship tournament. In all her years at Olympus, the team either didn’t make the playoffs or didn’t get very far. So the thought of winning it all never entered their mind.

But when the Titans started winning games they normally wouldn’t, Gubler’s mind started to change. “Maybe we might have a shot,” she thought. Once the postseason came around, she felt much more confident.

On Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium, her confidence became reality.

Olympus won the 5A girls soccer state championship 1-0 over Bonneville after a hard-fought, defense-oriented game that needed extra time to decide it. Titans junior Emma Neff provided the game winner with less than three minutes left in the first of two 10-minute periods of extra time, where high school rules dictate that the team that scores the first goal wins.

“We’ve wanted this since we were freshmen and sophomores — most of us are juniors and seniors,” Neff said. “So it feels really good.”

Neff’s goal came off Gubler’s corner kick. Olympus coach Jamie Evans said Gubler’s job on corners is to find either Neff or senior Megan Jewell in the box.

Gubler said she saw Neff and thought if she could get it to her head, she’d put the ball in the net.

“Emma putting her head on the ball — she puts her head on the ball every time she gets a chance,” Evans said. “So it doesn’t surprise me one bit that she scored the winning goal at the end.”

Bonneville and Olympus played 80 minutes of scoreless soccer before the golden goal rule was enacted in extra time. Evans said Olympus played very defensively in the first half, but told her players that they needed to get forward more often and try to find a goal in the second half.

A flurry of chances transpired in the waning minutes when either team could’ve come away with a goal. Lakers sophomore Sadie Beardall’s shot from outside the box was saved or clipped to go just wide. The ensuing corner kick was punched away with less than three minutes left.

Lakers junior Rylee Lopaz got a direct pass behind the Olympus back line and had a great chance at a possible game winner. But her shot went over the crossbar.

Then Titans senior Lily Webster in transition beat a slew of defenders and took a shot, but Bonneville senior goalkeeper Abree Beardall made a spectacular save with less than two minutes left in regulation. Then Lopaz took a shot with 30 seconds left, but it was easily saved.

“It was stressful,” Gubler said of the final minutes of regulation.

Once it got to overtime, Evans said no one on her team “had any legs left.” But she was proud of the way the Titans pushed through the fatigue.

“We knew that if we got a chance to get a corner that we could possibly finish with a goal,” Evans said.

Olympus lost just one game the entire 2020 season. The title was the first one for the Titans since 1996.